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Semiconductor veteran Ricky Lee back for S$13.2m IPO

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Mr Ng (left) and Mr Lee of Grand Venture Technology. The firm is growing its advanced machining capabilities, and expanding its business in segments like analytical life sciences equipment.

Singapore

SEMICONDUCTOR industry veteran Ricky Lee, who played key roles in listing Norelco Centreline Holdings and ETLA, is back for another initial public offering (IPO) as the controlling shareholder of Grand Venture Technology.

This time, he's looking to raise gross proceeds of S$13.2 million when Grand Venture lists on the Singapore Exchange's Catalist board this year. The company is issuing 42.92 million shares at S$0.275 apiece, in addition to a cornerstone subscription from Sunshine Power for 5.1 million shares at the same price.

Mr Lee, 57, founded Grand Venture in 2012, and is the company's executive chairman and largest shareholder with a direct and deemed pre-listing stake of about 71.7 per cent. Grand Venture provides manufacturing solutions and services for the semiconductor, analytical life sciences, electronics and other industries, with operations in Singapore, Malaysia and China.

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Chief of the company's plans: growing its advanced machining capabilities, and expanding its business in segments like analytical life sciences equipment.

For instance, Grand Venture says it is now one of the few in Singapore capable of sub-micron machining. Imagine a strand of hair, which is about 30 microns. The smallest drill bit is 10 microns and can drill a hole through the strand of hair, says CEO Julian Ng.

But now, products, especially for the life sciences industry, require even more precision. "One micron straightness, 0.5 micron roundness - that's the type of accuracy we're talking about," adds Mr Ng.

The company is also moving away from conventional machining materials, like aluminium and stainless steel, to explore non-conventional ones like ceramic and quartz, which it see a growing demand for. Those materials can apparently withstand higher temperatures than most metals.

"We know customers are buying these parts but not locally; not South-east Asia, not China. They go to their suppliers in the US, Germany and Japan," says Mr Ng. "So, if we can break this barrier, it'll be good for the precision engineering industry in Singapore."

To that end, Grand Venture has struck up a 10-year partnership with Austrian company, SICO Technology GmbH, and its Singapore outfit, Sico Asia Quartz, to tap on its quartz and ceramic machining knowhow. The company says that partnership renders it one of the few in South-east Asia with that capability.

Segment-wise, the company is putting more focus on analytical life sciences equipment, although semiconductors still account for the bulk of its business (about 70 per cent of revenue). It's a fast-growing segment, says Mr Lee, particularly thanks to a rising use of mass spectrometry technologies in food testing and drug development. Frost & Sullivan projects the mass spectrometry market to hit US$5 billion by 2022.

A trend is making the mass spectrometer smaller, such that it could eventually be placed in supermarkets for food testing. For example, Mr Ng says: "If you pick up an organic vegetable but you don't trust its origins, you can do testing right away."

At the end of the day, the duo - who were ex-colleagues at Norelco and ETLA - are hoping Grand Venture can become a world-class contract manufacturer, playing alongside international brands like Flex and Jabil. Even now, Mr Lee says it is not competing with the locals, but with others in the US and Europe.

Grand Venture has gone from having zero customers in 2012 to about 10, and now counts the likes of multinational companies Teradyne, BE Semiconductors Industries, North America Semiconductor Company and North America Analytical Life Sciences Company among its major customers.

The company now employs over 500 people across all three countries and continues to hire. In Singapore, staff strength grew from over 40 employees in 2017 to over 80 in 2018.